Stray Cessna Sparks Scare Over Washington

April 24, 2009

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The north lawn of the White House and parts of the US Capitol were briefly evacuated on Friday after the pilot of a small plane strayed into restricted airspace.

"Proper procedures were followed. The pilot was compliant. It is over," a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security said.

An official at the Federal Aviation Administration said the plane, identified as a single engine Cessna, later landed at a Washington-area airport without incident.

The security scare spurred the Secret Service to temporarily clear the north lawn in front of the White House while at the US Capitol the Senate went into a brief recess.

An "all clear" signal was given by Capitol police within minutes, and lawmakers and staff returned to the Senate floor. Workers were also briefly evacuated from the House of Representatives side of the building.

After the hijacked plane attacks of September 11, 2001, officials tightened up security and increased the area of restricted airspace around Washington. There have been several incidents since then of small planes breaching Washington area security.

(Reuters)